The College Years, Part 3: Summer and Fall 2011 (Start of Sophomore year)

Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last installment. Stuff was going on. You know, life happens. But I’m back now! So enjoy!

Ok, so my first summer as a college student (second? It really depends on whether you’re a “college student” as soon as you graduate high school. Assuming you’re college-bound, that is) was pretty exhausting. Every day I drove a good 40 minutes to an hour (I don’t remember) to get to a medical center immunology lab, where I “helped” my PI (“principal investigator;” mentor), a PhD candidate, with her thesis project. I learned a lot about immunology – especially Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and came home most days pretty stinky (because C. diff toxin is RANK!!!). After a good 7-9 hours in the lab (usually pretty repetitive stuff), reading papers, or working on presentations, I would then drive the same 40-60 minute drive home, grab some food, and flop down on the couch to watch Scrubs. This was the first time I had ever seen Scrubs, and it made doctoring look almost as exciting as House had – and sure a heck of a lot more fun. I was convinced that I was destined to be Elliott (even though I’m not nearly as much of a gunner. I’m a fan of cooperation over competition.) All in all it was a good, fun, educational summer.

Then came Fall quarter of my Sophomore year. Boy, was I in for a ride.

In order to keep on track with my physics major, I needed to take Modern Physics. In order to keep on track with being pre-med, I needed to start the Organic Chemistry sequence. Boy, oh boy, oh boy. I figured, you know, I should probably get an easy social sciences class in there to balance things out a little bit (and I also took piano lessons again, because my first quarter taking those had been quite fun!) My easy social science course of choice was Psych 101 because it would undoubtedly be something that would look good on med school applications. As a matter of fact, my in-state public med school (University of Illinois) required at least 3 classes of behavioral sciences, so this would count as one of them. This term. Was. BRUTAL. Everything, Psych included, was about 5 times harder than I had expected it would be. Orgo was lots and lots of memorization with the lab portion literally being the only thing keeping me from failing (thank goodness I’m awesome at lab and consistently got 48-49/50!); Modern Physics was lots and lots of just… weird… conceptual stuff that was hard and confusing to put math to; and Psych was just so much reading (and I’m a slow reader so that didn’t help!) I spent the trimester kind of spiraling downwards and had several, just, sob sessions.

It was during one of these mini freak-out sessions that I went in to talk to Prof M.S. and just… vent. He started by being like, “yeah, people are often caught off guard by Psych 101. And Modern is a complete shift from the type of physics you’re all used to. And Organic, I’ve heard, is a big weed-out class. Just hang in there.” He then proceeded to tell me of a quite amusing dream he once had about his own Psych 101 professor back in the day, to relay how crazy it had made HIM. And I believe this little meeting of ours was the same day that good ol’ Prof M.S. gave me this sage piece of advice. “Now I’m not telling you to get drunk or smoke weed all the time, but you need to learn to RELAX. You need to do things that YOU want to do, and stop making decisions and doing things just to make other people happy.”

Easier said than done. I more or less followed his advice by ignoring his advice (read: he told me to make the decisions that made *me* happy, and making other people happy makes me happy, so continued with my people-pleasing ways, but with taking the occasional night off.) Now, I wish I had heeded that advice of his advice more, and these days I take more of a concerted effort to do so.

I ended that term pretty beat, and with a pretty abysmal term GPA. C in Orgo, B in Modern, B+ in Psych, and even only an A- in piano. I was pretty discouraged, but at least I had my 5-6 week winter break, full of food and boredom, to help me recoup for Orgo II, Intro to Physics Research, and Dance Theory & Improv the following term. And the almighty 2-term EMT class.

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